«Άγνωστες εικόνες από τον ναό του Αγίου Ιωάννη του Θεολόγου ενορίας Σερβιώτη στην Καστοριά», Βυζαντινά 38 (202!), σ. 191-208.
Skreka Andromachi – Strati Aggeliki
Unknown portal icons from the church of Aghios Ioannis Theologos in the Servioti parish in Kastoria
During the restoration and conservation works that took place in the church of Aghios Ioannis Theologos in the Servioti parish in Kastoria, many icons were found in a wooden box in the matroneum of the church. Among them were two “despotikes” icons, which due to their bad condition were conserved in 2018 at the Conservation labs of the Byzantine Museum in Kastoria. Both icons have silver leaf background. The first one depicts Virgin Hodegetria in the variation of a common iconographic type, while the second icon portrays a unique iconographic theme with Saint Athanasios, bishop of Alexandria and Saint Christopher with the young Christ on his shoulder. The depiction of these two Saints together is very rare in byzantine art and in this case could be attributed perhaps to the personal preferences of the person who commissioned the icon.
Saint Athanasios is identified due to the realistic portrayal of the face while the theme of Saint Christopher crossing the river baring young Christ at his shoulder and holding the stick which sprouts, was very famous mainly in the West, where it was created in 12th century. From the 14th century onwards, it is found at the byzantine periphery while it became famous at the postbyzantine painting, in wall paintings and icons, too. At the end of this period is very common the depiction of the Saint with the head of a dog (“Kynokefalos”). The iconographic style of Saint Christopher is associated with similar depictions in monuments dating to 14th and 15th century in Crete, Cyprus, Veroia, medieavel Serbia and Bulgaria.
Stylistically, Virgin Hodegetria is linked with the anti-classical movement in Upper Macedonia of the second half of 14th century found in the decorations of Aghios Nikolaos Kyritzi, Aghios Nikolaos Tzotza, Aghios Nikolaos Petriti and Aghios Ioannis Prodromos at Omonia square as well as in an icon with the same theme from the Byzantine Museum, while the figure of Aghios Athanasios follows examples in mural paintings dating in 14th and 15th century in Kastoria such as Aghios Athanasios of Mouzakis, Aghios Ioannis Prodromos in Omonia square, Aghioi Treis and in Globoko at the lake of Megali Prespa.
The superior artistic quality of these two icons with the restriction of the linear elements and the smooth treatment of the facial skin, all point to monumental paintings or panel icons either from Kastoria or within its general vicinity. Additionally, the common wooden construction and the same dimensions of the two panels which probably ornament either the original iconostasis of Aghios Ioannis Theologos or one from another church in Kastoria lead us to the conclusion that these two icons should be attributed to the same artistic workshop in the late 14th and early 15th century.
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